Kotkapura: Press Watch

A lot has been made about the lack of press attention on the events unfolding in Kotkapura and across Punjab. When national newspapers publish an article it is being jumped upon by Sikhs and shared immediately using social media. However, this is not always wise as many articles contain erroneous information and are slanted in favour of the State as opposed to the protesting Sikhs. This is a collation of press coverage together with a brief analysis of each article, highlighting particularly concerning language.


Why are Indian Sikhs angry? | BBC News
Ravinder Singh Robin
Tuesday 20 October, 2015

A poor piece of journalism replete with loaded language, but no less than could have been expected from an India-based correspondent. This is the first news article that has been published by the BBC following a protest on a live TV show over the weekend lamenting their lack of coverage and over 80,000 signatories to a Change.org petition demanding coverage (prior to this only a video and blog piece had been published).

  • The headline sets the tone of this article by depicting Sikhs as angry to paint a picture of a community who are not presently thinking clearly or acting rationally, but in anger (this is a common tactic by Indian journalists that has been used against the founder of this site);
  • As tempers soared, police opened fire” – there is no mention of what caused tempers to soar namely tear gas and water canons being used against peaceful protestors;
  • …protests have disrupted life in large parts of Punjab” – the notion of a protest is to cause disruption, but Robin’s use of this phrase is to hint that the protestors are distinguishable from ordinary citizens whose lives have been ‘disrupted’;
  • …radical Sikh organisations like the Damdami Taksal and Ajnala faction have also been seen” – how is the Damdami Taksal, Sikhdom’s premier seminary radical? They cannot impose rules for Sikhs other than those who study within their institution and even then, are concerned with academic instruction to preachers, so what actions have they engaged in that make them radical?
  • …many are warning that order must be restored quickly” – use of the word ‘many’ alone is an attempt to depict protestors as a minority, when the journalist could have just as easily stated who the ‘many’ are e.g. security experts, Govt officials;
  • …Punjab has been peaceful for nearly two decades” – victims of Police brutality, organised crime and political opposition would beg to differ;
  • …violent insurgency for an independent Sikh homeland in the 1980s and the 1990s” -an insurgency is by it’s very nature violent, but Robin utilises the term here to emphasise that the Sikh community is one that should be seen as uncivilised;
  • …security forces killed many Sikh militants after they seized the Golden Temple” – nobody had seized the Darbar Sahib Amritsar, Sikhs who were at the forefront of the Dharam Yudh morcha were based there as it was being led by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and the Damdami Taksal (learn more about the propaganda relating to the events of June 1984 here).

Punjab holds emergency meeting to defuse Sikh violence | The Guardian
Associated Press Delhi
15.18 BST Tuesday 20 October, 2015

This article has been compiled by a writer based in Delhi, India, writing for the Associated Press news agency and is not by a Guardian journalist which explains why it is in part presenting a false picture of the reality on the ground in Punjab. It provides an insight into what the central Government is reporting to the media in the capital for international dissemination and so should be of considerable interest to media analysts within Sikh organisations.

  • The headline is incendiary giving prominence to what it sees as ‘Sikh violence’ despite the largely peaceful protests, even in the face of Police excess.
  • …days of violent protests” – there has been over a week of almost entirely peaceful protests, with the Sikh community only acting otherwise in retaliation to Police excess, yet it is being reported from Delhi as entirely violent;
  • officers opened fire after protesters had pelted the police with stones and set two police vehicles ablaze in Faridkot district” – there is no mention of the water cannon and tear gas that was used on peaceful protestors prior to them engaging the Police, but doing so would have considerably negated the depiction of protestors throwing stones at armed officers.

Is There Really a Media Blackout on Sikh Deaths in India? | Vice News
Samantha Rea
Tuesday 20 October, 2015

This piece was written by a freelance journalist who had used social media to reach out to Jagmeet Singh after he protested on a live BBC television show. Published by the online-media newcomer Vice who have shaken-up news reporting and documentary in recent years, one has to accept that as a freelance writer, Rea would be more inclined to cover news stories that are attracting attention but being ignored by the mainstream media which explains its publishing. That being said, she is but one freelance journalist amongst tens of thousands who also could have chosen to provide coverage but did not. Overall Rea writes an objective piece and centres the article on a transcribed interview with the aforementioned Jagmeet Singh.

  • The headline questions the media blackout in India, but goes no further to investigate this in the piece which would have helped to balance out the doubt that this creates in the readers mind of whether there ‘really’ is an issue to be concerned about her at all.

Punjab official calls meeting to defuse days of protests | The Washington Post
Nirmala George, Associated Press
08.26 EST Tuesday 20 October

BBC presenter Sian Williams threatens to take panellist off air after protest about Sikhs in Punjab disrupts show | The Telegraph
Charlotte Krol
21.00 BST Monday 19 October, 2015

The Daily Telegraph chose to cover Jagmeet Singh’s on-air protest and little else in this piece. Krol provides a play-by-play narrative of what took place supplemented by a quote from the Basics of Sikhi Facebook page which had expressed it’s support for Jagmeet Singh (one of the charity’s employees). There is no further reference to the “violence against Sikhs” which the broadsheet refers to in the byline. This is in essence a report of the on-air protest, and not of events taking place in the Punjab.

Sikh protester interrupts BBC’s Sian Williams | BBC Video
18.11 BST Monday 19 October, 2015

A video excerpt from the ‘Sunday Morning Live’ television show was shared later on Monday in the BBC News section showing Jagmeet Singh protest the broadcaster’s lack of coverage. By the time this video was shared on the BBC website with the accompanying description, the short clip had already gone viral as both a Facebook and Youtube video – had it not, one can question whether the BBC would have shared it themselves.

‘Sikh Lives Matter’ – says a new global protest movement | BBC Trending
Jody Lan-Castle and Mukul Devichand
Monday 19 October, 2015

The first mention of events by the BBC came through a blog post which was published to reflect the mass protest by Sikhs on social media. Unlike news reports and editorial articles, the blog posts in the ‘What’s Trending’ section aim to explain why a particular topic has gained the public’s attention on social media and accordingly this piece covered the Change.org petition demanding coverage by the BBC, Jagmeet Singh’s protest on live television, the history of the most popular hashtag being used online (#SikhLivesMatter) and links to existing BBC coverage of the events. There was a brief summary of what had taken place in the Punjab, as well as references to the events of 1984 which have drawn comparisons to the present situation. Although a more technical piece with different intentions than a BBC News article, this was a well composed piece devoid of the undesirable language used elsewhere.

Jagmeet Singh: Sikh charity calls on British media to provide coverage of treatment of Sikhs in India | The Independent
Samuel Osborne
Monday 19 October, 2015

Guest disrupts BBC’s Sunday Morning Live by throwing on-air protest about Sikh killings | The Metro
Jimmy Nsubuga
19.03 Sunday 18 October, 2015